Tuesday, December 22, 2009

From the Kitchen: Christmas Cookies 2009

So I've been baking, decorating and baking some more. I had a few key tactical errors regarding "Cookie Day" this year. I figured that having no baby this year would entitle me to take on more "fancy" cookies and cut out the classic bar variety. I also thought, silly me, that if I waited until closer to Christmas to do the baking, I'd end up with more cookies to take to parties and give to the neighbors and less to have to exercise off. This may be true, but only a little.

But those two issues, some piping-bag-induced carpal tunnel, and a deep scrubbing of my kitchen later, I do have some lovely and delicious cookies to show for my efforts.

This year I baked gingerbread, sugar cookies, cranberry ribbon cookies (though I changed their appearance to simplify), mint chocolate chip drops and chocolate crinkles. My goals were to have a variety of tastes and nice looking cookies. Next year I will include, as a primary aim, the ability to finish "Cookie Day" in under 48 hours, since this year we topped off at 4 days. I also used meringue powder in my icing for the first time... up to this point I've always sworn by egg whites. I like both for different things and I'm glad I made the attempt.

So here are some pictures for posterity... this way my efforts go on the record. Enjoy!

"Tiny tots with their eyes all aglow"... will find these hard to resist. Impossible, actually, since my 2 year old has helped himself to anything within reach.

I don't forsee any more blogging in the remainder of my 2009, so I want to wish you a wonderful Christmas and the very happiest of New Years! Now go make merry!

Monday, December 14, 2009

My Life in a Nutshell: Reminiscing

I am getting some photo-related Christmas gifts together right now. For the past several days, I have been trolling through our family pictures from the last year. My inevitable conclusion on this cold gray wet day is that I - general welcomer of snow and cold weather - miss the summer. We live in Michigan and I enjoy having ALL the seasons, but today my fingers are cold as I type and I'm not interested in walking to the bus stop and donning all the weather-appropriate clothing that will require. Nope. Not today.

Oh for a picnic birthday party! Summer, you're only 6 months away...

Thursday, December 3, 2009

From the Kitchen: Paperhill's Beautiful Bread

I have been obsessed with this delicious and hearty bread recipe ever since it was shared with me by Susan of Paperhill. It has a moist crumb and chewy crust that make it the perfect accompaniment to a thick stew. I made a double batch yesterday and just had to pass it on. It's for the good of the world. I don't know where Susan found this delightful recipe, but I'm going to call it:

Paperhill's Artisan Bread

3 cups of flour
1/4 tsp. instant yeast
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups of water

Mix into shaggy dough, cover, and let it sit for 12-18 hours. Fold dough twice to deflate on well floured surface then let it rest 15 minutes. Form dough into saggy ball and let sit on floured surface for 1 -2 hours.

Really saggy... this floury mass was about 2" tall, at most.

Meanwhile heat oven and large oven-safe cast-iron/enameled/glass pot and lid to 450 degrees for at least 30 minutes. Drop dough into heated pot, cover, bake 30 minutes, remove lid; bake uncovered for 10-20 minutes longer to a golden color.

Do not cut until completely cool. Bread should be used within 24 hours (ours never survives that long!), store in plastic once cut or paper bag uncut.